Cape Town - An elderly one-legged paraplegic has successfully ridden a vintage motorcycle from Botswana to Cape Town, lying on his stomach.

Despite the extent of the physical ordeal for Dale Collett, his focus remained on children dying of terminal illnesses.

Collett grew up on a sheep farm in the Karoo and was wounded in the Rhodesian war of independence.

He explained: “I was paralysed in 1976 at the level T4, which is about level with your breastbone. I have suffered from many pressure sores over the years and I therefore drive my vehicle and motorcycle lying down.

“In September 2011 I broke my left leg very high up and decided to have it amputated.

“In January I had an operation to my left shoulder to repair torn tendons but unfortunately they are irreparable. To say that I need a complete overhaul would not be an exaggeration,” he reported dryly.

INDEPENDENCE IS A STATE OF MIND

Despite all Collett’s setbacks, he remained independent, driving himself in his adapted pick-up truck, while lying on his stomach - apparently to the great bemusement of the Botswana traffic police.

He also acquired a CJ750 motorcycle and sidecar combination - a Chinese replica of the BMW R75 used by the German army during the Second World War. First produced in about 1956, the CJ has an old-technology 750cc flat-twin pushrod engine.

This one has also been modified to allow Collett to lie on his stomach to drive and for which he has a licence too.

It was on this machine that Collett cruised into Cape Town on Monday, having ridden 1548km from Gaborone, after four days of “living on the bike” - including washing on the bike, sleeping on the bike and updating his blog.

400KM A DAY

He said: “I’m sure glad to be just a few kay’s from Muizenberg; I rode about 400km a day, I’m quite knackered - although I didn’t have to sleep on my bike because everybody was so accommodating.”

Asked why he had embarked on the challenge, he said: “You and I get up in the morning and start complaining about the day, the traffic, colleagues, the heat, the drought, the poor salary, the cost of living - and yet nearly every one of the kids that are supported by Ray of Hope never ever complain.

“They sometimes go through painful treatment and never mutter. They are often physically weaker but never give up. They don’t have fun like other kids, they don’t go on outings and yet they are some of the bravest folks in our community. Now to top all this, all of them have a terminal disease.

“That’s right, they are dying. It is simple, they are dying.”

Cape Argus